Calling Panther Lake is a newer lake maintained by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The lake is a 500-acre manmade lake located in Crystal Springs, Mississippi about thirty miles south of Jackson, Mississippi. The lake was stocked with largemouth bass, bream, and catfish about four years ago, and crappie were added about 2 years ago. The lake was first opened to the public this past March. To get to the lake From Crystal Springs, take Highway 51 South for 1.3 miles, then turn right on Georgetown Street. Follow Georgetown Street for 1.1 miles and turn left on New Zion Road. Go 5.1 miles and turn left on Gaddy Lane. After 1.8 miles, turn left on Lake Entrance Road. Creel limits for the lake are as follows: Largemouth bass, 16"-22" slot length limit, 7 fish/day with 1 over 22", Channel Catfish 10 fish/day, Bream 100 fish/day, and Crappie 30 fish/day. Skiing will be permitted on Wednesday and Sunday, noon to sunset. Although skiing is permitted on Sunday and Wednesday, I have never seen anyone actually skiing. The lake is idle only except for these two days and only in a small area of the lake. There is only one ramp with two lanes for the lake and there is currently no lighting. Plans to add lights near the launch are in the works. There is a long dock by the boat launch and fishing from the bank is allowed, though it is certainly better from a boat since it is basically a lake in the middle of the woods.
Although Calling Panther is not a large lake, it does offer quite a variety of fishing areas. The lake was dammed from a creek and consists of mostly flooded timber. About half of the lake is still not accessible due to the thickly wooded areas. There is a rock dam, creek channel, flats, thick structure and brush piles in all depths up to forty-five feet. Most of the bottoms are either clay or sand, but grass can be found in some areas. The lake is generally clear compared to most lakes in this area of the country but does become lightly stained after a light rain and a moderate stain after heavy rains. The water temperature is usually pretty consistent over the entire body of water but can vary up to seven degrees during the late fall/early spring.
I have not fished the spawn since the lake opened in the later part of March so I cannot tell you much about the spring pattern. I began fishing the lake this summer, and it was during a time in which the lake had experienced a lot of pressure after incredible initial fishing reports. I have caught fish every time I have gone out but I never caught more than twelve fish in the boat during one trip. The best fishing year round is in 8-14 feet of water using plastics.
During the summer, a six-inch junebug worm was easily the lure of choice. Poppers work really well in deeper water during the morning and afternoon hours. Poppers worked best in 18-24 feet of water, but they work just about anywhere on the lake. The one thing that Calling Panther does not favor is crankbaits. Rattle Traps, balsa, jointed, deep and shallow crankbaits just do not produce like they should. Spinnerbaits are also disappointing on this lake. For best results, Texas-rigged plastics and jigs will do the trick.
The fishing tends to be good just about anywhere on the lake, but there are several hot spots that tend to produce best. The first of these is near the boat launch. Once you follow the channel out about 100 yards you will see a bunch of flooded timber. The wood is pretty thick, so keep the treble hooks in the box. For the best results, go with Texas-rig anywhere that looks like a good spot. The southern point of this flooded timber has been a good spot for both numbers and quality since the back side drops down into deep open water. The next hot spot is located just past this timber. Once you hit the open water, there is a sand bank just off to the right of the channel (west) and from mid-spring to late fall, fish can be had here. Usually the numbers are pretty good but the size is not that impressive. The best technique I have found for this area is anything plastic thrown on to the sand bank and sliding it in to the water. I do think this area will hold some bigger fish that just don't bite because it is so heavily pressured. I am going to try some swimbaits this spring to see if I can't catch a toad here. The third of the hot spots is along the rock levee. The numbers will be very shallow and will hit small worms best. The levee falls off to 40 feet of water quickly, and the rocks break to sand at about 12-14 feet of water. This area can produce both size and numbers. I have had success hitting the secondary drops at about 18-22 feet in late summer including a couple toads. The rest of the lake is still good fishing, and many people will just pitch to the timber from the channel or try to navigate farther back in the lake in the dense trees. But hooking up and landing a fish become completely different stories back there.
The lake record is right at 10lbs but considering the fish are only 4 years old this is quite impressive. One of the wildlife officers has caught one just over 12lbs but this is unofficial. Many people, including myself, think this lake will be capable of state record bass in the next few years. The Mississippi record is over 18 pounds, and this will be a tough task but one this lake makes possible. Since midsummer, the lake has not seen a lot of fishing and the bite is coming back strong. From early spring to late fall, there is a weekly tournament on Monday evenings from 5pm to 8pm with a big bass side pot. Even though fish can be caught year round, the bite is always best during early morning and late afternoon. I am sorry I can't be of more help with the bream and catfish, and the crappies are still too small to bother with.
A lake depth map can be found here:
Brandon (bclemms) is a guest writer for UltimateBass.com.